Key Themes: Mental Health, Religion,
This book gives voice to the voiceless, allowing those caring for loved ones with mental illnesses and sufferers themselves to tell their own often painful but always moving stories. In bringing together this collection, Edna Hunneysett presents us with stories and poems which would otherwise have remained untold, unshared and unacknowledged. It also presents us with challenges which we as individuals and communities, especially Christian communities, need to address. What does it mean to be Christian? Indeed, what does it mean to be human and to care for our fellow human beings? In her earlier works Edna Hunneysett bravely described her painful and at times desperate experiences caring for a teenage daughter who suffered with severe mental illness and her own trials and tribulations in finding spiritual support through these ordeals. From these experiences Edna Hunneysett established and guided a pastoral care group for those caring for someone with mental illness, and later a group for sufferers themselves. This book tells their stories. It is a book of hope and empowerment. Though rooted in the Catholic world, this book is for everyone for, as one contributor puts it, ‘mental illness does not know denominational divisions’.
Editor, Middlesbrough Diocesan Catholic ‘Voice’
Edna Hunneysett wants us all to hear the stories of people with mental illness and to allow these stories to change us. In this book she has gathered together stories about mental illness that emerge directly from people’s experiences. Stories which enlighten; stories which challenge and move us; and stories that change the way we see mental illness and perhaps the way we see all of our lives. This book will make a difference.
Rev. Prof. John Swinton
Practical Theology & Pastoral Care, University of Aberdeen
About the Author
Edna Mary Hunneysett was born in 1940 near Stratford-upon-Avon, but in her infancy the family returned to a small rented hillside farm on the North Yorkshire Moors where she spent her childhood with six siblings. After passing her eleven plus examination, she attended a convent boarding grammar school for six years. She married in 1961 and years later, after having eight children, she began her academic career. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in Divinity in 1995 and gained an MA with distinction in 1998. Edna continued studying part-time for a further six years, researching attitudes towards people with mental illnesses with specific reference to Christian congregations under the tutorship of the Principal (now retired) of St. John’s College, University of Durham.
Over recent years Edna has spoken in many churches and other venues, locally and nationally, raising awareness on the need of support for families where a member has a mental illness. As well as hands-on involvement with her family, now including eighteen grandchildren and one great grandchild, she locally facilitates monthly pastoral support groups, one for carers of people with mental illnesses and the other for people in the community who have a mental illness.
Edna lives with her husband in Middlesbrough and is a minister of the Word and of the Eucharist in her parish.
A Carer’s Story
I have a number of brothers and sisters and, as a child, I was not aware that my mother had obsessive compulsive disorder tendencies. It was only later in life when looking back that we could see evidence of it. The disorder began to manifest itself more acutely in the years after my dad died, when my mother was sixty-two years old. I became the person to whom she off-loaded her obsessions, pleading with me for advice as no-one else must know! She made contact by regular telephone calls of an hour or more. Mam was clever and articulate with a great sense of humour but inside her four walls was tortured by her disorder. As I slowly began to understand the severity of her growing obsessions (scruples she called them), my attitude changed from frustration and annoyance to compassion and care.
Mam wrote a poem when seventy-five years old, after her second visit to a retreat house to which I had taken her for a few days, for a change of scenery and rest. Whilst there, she confided something of her illness to two nuns and a priest, her three friends. She knew her secret was safe with them.